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Saanich reins in retractable leashes with new animal bylaw

Council laments negativity surrounding people, pets, parks plan
Saanich dogs and their owners protest proposed off-leash strategy earlier this year. Set for potential adoption this month, the bylaw now prohibits the use of retractable leashes for all pets. (Black Press Media file photo)

The final stages of a new animal control bylaw in Saanich come with more limitations for pet owners – including no retractable leashes.

The bylaw successfully passed the first three readings Monday (Oct. 30) and is expected up for potential adoption Nov. 6.

“Retractable leashes are generally dangerous to both people, pets and the environment,” Coun. Karen Harper said, after making the motion that would define a leash and explicitly restrict the retractable kind.

The amendment to the bylaw saw support around the table with others saying they heard from the public it was a safety concern.

“If you look across urban areas in B.C. and Canada, the norm is in fact non-extendable leashes. This change is neither radical nor unusual,” Harper said.

RELATED: Decision delayed on Saanich leash rules

Mayor Dean Murdock wasn’t convinced, citing the enormity of the amendment. People walking pets on the street in residential areas will suddenly find themselves in contravention of bylaws, he said.

“I find that problematic … In my view this is not a productive change and I think many people will be extremely surprised to hear that they are not allowed to use a retractable leash anywhere when they walk in Saanich.”

The bylaw received the first three readings with some of the compromises made in September, including prohibiting dogs in playgrounds and allowing leash-optional activity between 6 and 9 a.m. in all P4 parks not considered natural parks or conservation areas.

At PKOLS, they added a 500-metre extension to the summit parking lot to the off-leash trail, making it 2.3 km.

All beaches outside of the Victoria Migratory Bird Sanctuary will be leash optional with existing seasonal restrictions, meaning all Saanich beaches will remain as they are.

RELATED: Group formed to fight Saanich leash laws celebrates delay

The three current pop-up dog parks – Lambrick, Rudd and Hyacinth – would become permanently off-leash. The proposed new rules would allow 57 of Saanich’s 172 parks to have off-leash areas, and 12 of those would have fenced off-leash areas, including a 1.5-kilometre trail loop within PKOLS and a four-­hectare fenced area with trails in Cuthbert Holmes Park, while Cordova Bay Beach would be off-leash year-round.

The ongoing People, Pets and Parks Strategy has been a controversial topic for some residents and dog owners and spurred what Coun. Teale Phelps Bondaroff characterized as “unneighbourly communication around the issue.”

“We’ve had people talking about harassment, threats, property destruction. That has no place in a friendly and welcoming Saanich. I think we have to consider how we’re approaching this issue in general,” he said. “It was really disheartening to hear some of the accusations.”

Murdock added his voice to those concerns while thanking the public for its active participation.

“I know that we’re not yet through but I’m grateful we’re at this point,” Murdock said.

Council will also look at budgeting for education, awareness, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the plan.

Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

Longtime journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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